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Explore and Make use of Nationally Defined Messaging APIs


Spine Endpoints

SDS allows details of registered system endpoints to be looked up

Spine Accredited Systems and Endpoints

Every system that connects to the Spine has one or more “Accredited System” entry in the Spine Directory, identified by an Accredited System Identifier (ASID).

This ASID is unique to a system deployed in a specific organisation, so the same application deployed into three NHS organisations would typically be represented as three unique ASIDs.

In addition, each endpoint that is registered with the Spine has one or more “interaction IDs” associated with the endpoint. These identify the types of Spine interaction that the endpoint has been assured to perform. These are used to control what functionality can be called by connecting systems - calls to interactions for which the accredited system has not been assured will be blocked.


MHS Message Handling Server. A middleware that handles messaging to/from Spine.
ASID Accredited System Identifer. A unique number allocated to a system on accreditation for connection to Spine.
MHS Endpoint An endpoint registered with Spine for use with multiple systems via a MHS. Each system has its own ASID.
CMA Endpoint Combined MHS and Accredited System Endpoint. An endpoint registered with Spine for a single system.

Consuming Spine Services

A consuming system will interact with SDS in order to resolve the FHIR Endpoint Server Root URL to be used when constructing the request to be made to the Spine service it wishes to call (or another external endpoint when sending a brokered call through the Spine Secure Proxy).

This is a two step process, as follows:

  1. Lookup the Accredited System ID (ASID)
  2. Lookup the Message Handling System (MHS)

Once the MHS record has been retrieved the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) and full endpoint of the FHIR server can be retrieved from returned attributes of the MHS record.

Systems SHOULD cache SDS query results giving details of consuming system, endpoints and endpoint capability on a per session basis.

Consuming systems SHALL NOT cache and re-use consuming system, endpoint information derived from SDS across multiple patient encounters or practitioner usage sessions. Each new patient encounter will result in new lookups to ascertain the most up-to-date consuming system, endpoint and endpoint capability.

Step 1a: Accredited System ID (ASID) Lookup for a National Spine Service

When the client wants to make a call to a national Spine service (e.g. NRLS, Visitors and Migrants, etc), the first step is to establish the Party Key for the Spine (there is a single Party Key for each Spine environment. This is fixed for each environment, so does not need to be looked up on SDS - to find the Party Key for the Spine environment refer to the “Authority Service Names” document for the relevant Spine environment - see Environments for details.

Step 1b: Accredited System ID (ASID) Lookup for an external service (brokered via SSP)

When the client wants to query an external service brokered through the Spine Security Proxy (e.g. a GP Connect API), the client SHALL use an organisation ODS code for the target organisation to lookup the Accredited System ID (ASID) as follows:

  • Accredited System type
    • objectClass = nhsAs
  • Organisational code
    • nhsIDCode = [odsCode] of the target organisation (e.g. GP practice).
  • Interaction ID
    • nhsAsSvcIA = [interactionId] of the API operation required.
ldapsearch -x -H ldaps:// –b "ou=services, o=nhs" 
	"(&(nhsIDCode=[odsCode]) (objectClass=nhsAS)(nhsAsSvcIA=[interactionId]))" 
	uniqueIdentifier nhsMhsPartyKey

The ASID will be returned in the uniqueIdentifier attribute which is returned from the ldaps query above.

Note that ldaps is used to establish a TLS session rather than the StartTLS option. Also note that once the TLS session is established, SASL authentication is not used by SDS and is therefore disabled through the -x option.

Please refer to the specification of the specific FHIR API you are using for details of the interaction ID to use:

Step 2: Message Handling System (MHS) Lookup

Clients SHALL lookup the endpoint URL from the MHS record using the Party Key retrieved in step 1, as follows:

  • Message Handling System type
    • objectClass = nhsMHS
  • MHS Party Key
    • nhsMHSPartyKey = [partyKey] as retrieved from the nhsMhsPartyKey attribute in step 1
  • MHS Interaction ID
    • nhsMhsSvcIA = [interactionId] of the API operation required(?)
ldapsearch -x -H ldaps:// -b "ou=services, o=nhs" 
	"(&(nhsMhsPartyKey=[partyKey]) (objectClass=nhsMhs) (nhsMhsSvcIA=[interactionId]))" 

The FHIR endpoint URL of the message handling system can then be extracted from the nhsMhsEndPoint attribute of the MHS record. The attribute nhsMhsFQDN could also be retrieved in the above query to retrieve the FQDN of the endpoint, though this can be extracted from the nhsMhsEndPoint.

ldapsearch configuration

SDS requires TLS Mutual Authentication. It is therefore necessary to configure ldapsearch in the examples above with the certificates necessary to verify the authenticity of the SDS LDAP server, and also to enable SDS to verify the spine endpoint making the LDAP request:

  1. Root and SubCA spine development certificates available from Assurance Support
  2. Obtain a client certificate by submitting a certificate signing request for your development endpoint to Assurance Support

Server certificate setup

For the examples above, ldapsearch should be configured to find the RootCA and SubCA certificates using the TLS_CACERT option in the ldap.conf file. This should point to a file, in PEM format, which contains both root and subca certificates ensuring that the root certificate is placed after the subCA certificae. The LDAPCONF environment vairable can be used to define the location of the ldap.conf

Client certificate setup

The client certificate and encrypted private key should be defined in the .ldaprc file using the following directives.

TLS_CERT C:\mydir\cert.pem TLS_KEY C:\mydir\key.pem

The location of the .ldaprc file can be defined using the LDAPRC environment variable.

See Environments for details of where to find URLs for SDS.

Tags: design

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